Where do most accidents happen?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Insurance companies say they pay more for ground-based accident claims than for any other area of aviation.

That’s why the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) is undertaking a program to cut accidents on the ground in half within five years. This initiative was just one of the subjects discussed by NATA President James Coyne at a year-end meeting with Washington-based aviation media.

Coyne said insurance companies pay out more than $100 million a year for ground-based accidents ranging from fuel trucks hitting aircraft to moving planes clipping the wings of others to aircraft bumping into other airplanes as they are pushed back from gates.

Insurance companies are hailing NATA’s efforts, Coyne reported, and the FAA and DOT “”are thrilled”” that the association is undertaking the program, dubbed Safety Management System, and have pledged support.

NATA is gathering data on ground incidents nationwide. About a dozen FBOs are participating in reporting accidents on ramps and in hangars. Within two years, NATA officials hope to have at least 500 involved. Reports will be “”sterilized”” so identities are not revealed. Many accidents are not reported now, Coyne said, because of high deductibles. “”If an FBO has a $100,000 deductible on an insurance policy and the accident costs come to $80,000, it will not be reported,”” he said.

On other issues, Coyne said there is a need to get the FAA back into the promotion of aviation. Other government agencies promote the businesses they regulate, but this authority was taken away from the FAA after a type of airline the FAA had been supporting crashed in the Everglades. “”We must get Congress to reinstate this authority,”” he said.

It also is important for the news media to have a better understanding of charter flights and all general aviation, Coyne told the group. (Only one representative of a non-aviation trade news outlet attended the briefing.) Charter flights are getting a higher profile now as business travelers find going by scheduled carriers more of a hassle. He stressed the need for aviation leaders to get together, with the key issue of promoting general aviation.

When Coyne opened the session to questions, I commented that 50 years ago we were writing the same messages that the news media, general public and most government officials do not understand general aviation. Why, in his opinion, are we reporting the same issues a half-century later? Coyne responded that the news media today have a wide range of subjects to cover and reporters and editors are less informed on general aviation.

That answer explained why today’s media do not know general aviation. I guess explaining the reason for the lack of media understanding over the past half-century and GA’s efforts to change this needs to be done in history courses.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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